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I’m Ba-ack…(with a bang)!

Did you miss me? I certainly missed you!

My earlier prediction that my blog would likely take a back seat as I became busier with work and study unfortunately came true. I don’t like to make excuses, but over the last couple of months, both have done a monumental job of sapping my time and energy (my creative energy, in particular) and regrettably it meant my blog went untouched…from my end anyway!

I especially want to express my heartfelt apologies to the amazing bloggers who continued to contribute to the I Made It! Monday” event in my absence – I will soon follow up with a round up of their fantastic achievements.

I can’t promise you (or myself) that it won’t happen again, but now that uni’s over for the semester, I have some extra time on my hands…for the time being, at least! I’ve also recently resolved to stop letting work get the better of me – it’s…Just. Not. Worth. It! On a brighter note, during my time away, I have still been doing plenty of ‘food touristing‘ – I even managed to squeeze in a visit to my old hometown of Adelaide, which involved a lot of good food and wine – so I have stacks of tasty anecdotes to share with you.

Already as I’m typing this, I feel so much better – I really, really missed this. And I missed scouring through all my favourite blogs (I haven’t had the opportunity to do much of that either)…I have so much to catch up on!

After all of that, you’re probably wondering what this ‘bang’ I referred to in the title is supposed to be…surely this (a mere whimper thus far, if you will) can’t be it?

Well, it had a lot to do with this morning’s breakfast. Not only did it wake me up in a physical sense, but it provided that ‘kick’ I needed to get my blog-jo back.

I’ve always wanted to try making Shakshouka or Huevos Rancheros, because they always look so delicious and relatively easy to prepare, especially considering the ingredients include items that are pretty stock standard in most pantries and fridges. I skimmed the internet to get some general ideas and ended up formulating my own version from a few different recipes based on what I had on hand:

Spicy Baked Eggs with Chorizo

Ingredients:
  • 2 eggs (the larger the better)
  • 1 chorizo sausage, sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced
  • 1 small or half a large onion*, sliced
  • 1 small or half a large red capsicum, sliced
  • 2 tsp paprika (I used 1 tsp smoked, 1 tsp sweet)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (strictly optional – I can’t stress that enough! My eggs didn’t just provide a kick, there were some punches thrown in as well!)
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes 
  • Fresh herbs (parsley or coriander), chopped

* I only had brown onion on hand, which worked fine, but I think red (Spanish) onion would be perfect for this dish.

Method:

Note: this served two of us. You don’t have to be strict with the measuring either – feel free to mix it up to your personal tastes. I’m sure next time I make this I’ll rework it a bit (almost certainly omitting the dried chilli flakes…phwoar!)

*Sigh* – it’s good to be back! 🙂

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Freshly Baked: Hot Cross Bun and Butter Pudding

With many thanks (and kudos) to KitchenSpells for this deliciously inspiring way to use up the last of our Hot Cross Buns…it was the perfect dessert for a cool, wet Autumn evening.

Refer to the KitchenSpells blog for the full recipe and more delectable images.

Needless to say, my Other Half will be on a red-hot lookout for leftover Hot Cross Buns in the next couple of weeks (I’m not sure if I have the heart to tell him he won’t have much luck). 😉

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Taste of Venice

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Afloat,” as well as Writing101’s Day 2 Challenge: “A Room with a View.”

You close your eyes to appreciate this perfect moment. You are comfortably seated next to your special someone on a luxuriously upholstered seat; a warm, gentle breeze is blowing, and it enhances this feeling you have of gliding on air.

The only discernible sound is the gentle lapping of water, until the dulcet tones of a piano accordion permeate the silence with a romantic Italian melody. Suddenly a rich baritone breaks into an operatic classic by Puccini (or perhaps it’s Rossini, you can never tell the difference) and your beloved leans in for a soft kiss.

You open your eyes and the sight of your singing guide in his striped shirt and straw hat makes you smile, and you look around, expecting to be surrounded by the fading pastel hues of historic grand palazzos and gently arched stone bridges…

But – hang on a minute…this can’t be right. Trees? Parkland? Che cosa?

COAFT Afloat

No, you aren’t among the heave of tourists travelling along the Grand Canal in Venice, nor are you even in Italy.  You are, in fact, enjoying a glorious late spring afternoon gondola ride on the Charles River in Boston, USA!

Who’d have thought?

PS while we’re on the subject of ‘Afloat’ (and still in Boston)…is this not the most adorable houseboat you have ever seen?!

COAFT Afloat 2

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Fresh flavours: Prawn Laksa

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Fresh.”

Call it strange, call it convenient, but this week’s “Fresh” Photo Challenge happened to coincide with the very weekend I was considering preparing a Prawn Laksa for dinner.

There is just so much to love about classic South-East Asian flavours such as lime, chilli, fish sauce and coconut – the perfect fusion of sour, hot, salty and sweet. I’ll admit I took a shortcut and used a store-bought paste, but the results were still tastebud-tingling terrific (even if I do say so myself)!

I don’t cook fresh seafood all that often, so in case I don’t do so again for a while, this will also be…

My pick for OhMyGlai!’s Flavour of Month for April: Prawn/Shrimp

“I Made It! Monday” Easter Extension

I hope you’ll forgive me, but I have decided to extend the first week of my new event, mainly because it has only just “made it” to The Daily Post’s Events listing (see what I did there?) Don’t worry, though – I will still share the details of something else I made in the last seven days…

Taking advantage of the extra time off from work many of us are fortunate to get over the Easter long weekend, I decided to do some baking. While I was waiting for the Other Half to come home with some extra supplies I needed to give KitchenSpells’ Chocolate and Marshmallow Cupcakes a go (more about that in a future post), I was flicking through some of my many recipe books to see if there was something relatively quick I could whip up in the meantime.

It wasn’t long before I stumbled upon a deliciously indulgent recipe for which I miraculously had all the ingredients on hand…

Triple Chocolate Mocha Brownies

Ingredients
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 125g unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tbs instant espresso powder
  • 2 cups golden brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup macadamia nuts, chopped (or other nut of choice, if you wish)
  • 90g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 90g white chocolate, chopped
Method

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Line a 20cm x 20cm x 5cm baking pan with aluminium foil, allowing the foil to overhang the sides. Grease the foil. (In hindsight, I would also add a layer of baking paper on top of the foil at the base of the pan to prevent sticking.)

Mmm…chocolate and coffee – another match made in heaven!

What did you make last week? Find out more about “I Made It! Monday” on the main event page.

My Favourite Recipe: PASTA perfection

Between work, online uni study and preparing a guest post for the beautiful Flavoured Lemons blog (what a treat and honour!), I’ve fallen a bit behind with the weekly ‘My Favourite Recipe‘ challenge. Better late than never, though, am I right?

Had I not had the wonderful opportunity to spend four amazing days in Tuscany (nearly two years ago now, *sob*), learning how to cook delicious Italian food with Chef Claudio, this would be a completely different post!

Pasta is such a versatile ingredient – whether you use dried, fresh or handmade, you’re pretty much assured a quick, easy and – best of all – relatively cheap meal (unless, of course, you choose to lace it with champagne, lobster, and freshly shaved truffles and the like). I’m not ashamed to admit that if it wasn’t for those jars of ready-made pasta sauce you can buy at any supermarket, I probably would have survived on little more than scrambled eggs or tinned spaghetti when I first left home…we all have to start somewhere!

However, with the help of the Super Food Ideas magazine, countless Australian Women’s Weekly recipe books and the likes of Donna Hay, Nigella and Jamie, it wasn’t long before I discovered just how easy it is to turn a humble bowl of pasta into something delicious using fresh ingredients and home-made sauces. With Chef Claudio, I had the opportunity to take it one step further and learn how to make fresh pasta with an egg, plain flour and my own two hands (no machine required). Although we declared at the time that we would never cook with packet pasta again, I must confess it is still a staple item in our pantry (or fridge, when we get the fresh pasta).

But I digress – I’m here to talk about my favourite pasta recipe!

I was first introduced to the salty-but-sweet, rich, creamy goodness of Spaghetti Alla Carbonara while I was working in a lovely little Italian cafe-restaurant in my late teens; several years later I started looking for recipes in order to try it myself, aware of the fact that it would never measure up to Chef Jan’s beautiful dish.

Over time, my versions of this dish have changed quite considerably, based on the recipes I’d sought out, and whatever ingredients I had in my possession at the time. Once again, Chef Claudio came to the rescue.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to throw away the cream, tins of evaporated milk, and any preconceptions you had about what constituted a true Carbonara…

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara (alla Chef Claudio)

Ingredients:
  • 400g spaghetti (or other pasta of choice – I sometimes use fettucine or spiral pasta)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 200g prosciutto (or bacon)
  • 2 TBS milk
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Note: Besides the measurements (I tend to use less eggs), the only variation I make to this recipe is to cook chopped mushrooms with the prosciutto…they work beautifully in the recipe.

Method:

Thanks again to B.TX for setting up this challenge! Please join in and support this wonderful weekly event!